Hello, Catherine — where it is you now call home?
Prince Edward Island a small island on the east coast of Canada.
What is the attraction for you to live there?
It is really quiet. There are couple of bigger towns but I live out in the country. We have rolling hills and little rivers and it is beautiful. In the summer time the beaches are lovely, but right now the weather is more for hiking in the woods.
On enjoying the peace and quiet will no doubt be good for nurturing ideas for songs?
It is amazing how that stuff gets stuck in your brain and is what you end up writing about.
At what age did you start writing songs?
I wrote some really bad songs when I was like six, she laughs. But when I really started writing I would be about 14 around the time my dad died and hid away in my bedroom. I had a hard time communicating a lot of my emotions and stuff. So the way I did it was through my songs and it is what led me down the path I have taken, really.
You mentioned your father you must have gained great inspiration from the songs he wrote?
I was talking about this with Dan Rogers son, Nathan Rogers the other day and one of the lucky things that we have is because music is what we started doing. Writing and playing music it was an easy decision for me to make for us both to make, because it felt normal to me. If say, your father had a blue collar job or your mother stayed at home or was a secretary they might want you to be more responsible with your career path. I am really grateful for the position I am in and was able to pursue music like I have.
Anne Murray did very well from the songs your father wrote?
She did and it was great for my dad since it enabled him to stay at home and be a songwriter. He did not like being out there too much, and it allowed him to write more songs. I think that is most songwriter’s dream is to be able to stay at home and write.
I believe you will soon be travelling yourself when you come back over to the UK?
I am going to be with Gurf Morlix. It will be so much fun meeting up with him. He is great. We have done a few shows together and apart from Gurf being a great musician he is an incredible producer obviously.
You mention how it can be a good thing for some singer-songwriters to be able to stay at home and concentrate on their writing. How do you find getting out on the road?
I love the whole music thing, and every time I get to go to a new place in the world I feel lucky and can’t believe it is my job. Meeting people and getting their responses to songs and seeing where they are at it (in life), it has an influence on my music. I write a lot of internal stuff about my own life and if people weren’t digging it then it would be hard for me to go on.
When you meet people you will no doubt realise just how much there is out there in the world —other than what goes on back home?
Yes, definitely. You get to see how much people are the same, because you can sometimes romanticise about a place and think it is vastly different from where you are. Then when you go there they still do things pretty much as you but only in slightly different ways.
Who were your heroes when you were growing up?
Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan of the bigger names plus of course The Band. Since then I have listened to a lot of Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson and some Pentangle. That was an eye-opener for me when I stumbled on that stuff. It is an ever-changing musical landscape for me, I keep stumbling on stuff that has been around forever and it is real exciting.
Of course a lot of the time you will hear from reports from fellow musicians about the cool places to go and once you hear of somewhere with a good name be itching to try it out!
Yes, exactly. It is a very grass roots thing that is happening for folk music and it is such a cool thing. You will hear about a place maybe form another artist or someone who regularly goes to the club. Saying you should go there and I love how the whole system works, it is very interconnected.
With the Internet now coming into its own there are lots of ways to advertise your self?
It is great to have all the tools that we have today, Face Book and My Space and You Tube. It is hard keeping on top of it all, because there are so many different ways to do it! But it is great how people can immediately hear your music and then decide if they want to hear more.
Does your four-year-old daughter give you inspiration to write?
Yes, definitely. The ‘Isabel’s Song’ is about her. She inspires me to keep going, I realised when I became pregnant I had two options. One was to stop playing for a while, seriously, anyway until she was a bit older when she could deal with me being on the road or I could keep going. I knew that I wouldn’t really be happy if I stopped playing so yes, she is my biggest inspiration. I wanted her to see me doing what I loved doing, and so she too can grow up to do what she wants to do. Hopefully, she can see that in me a little bit.
Have you helped out on many other people’s records recently?
I was on Justin Rutledge’s and seem to have sung on a lot of other people’s records. Some of the guys who played on my record are in a band and I sang on their record. Amelia Curran, Rose Cousins and myself are getting to sing on a whole bunch of records right now.
It must be good to be asked to do that and to have the freedom to only worry about your relatively small part?
I love being the little piece in the puzzle, hoping to add something nice but at the end of the day it is their record. My friend Rose Cousins just did a bunch of gigs with Joel Plaskett who is pretty big here in Canada in the indie folk scene and she ended up being a side musician in his band as opposed to doing her own thing, and loved it. I can see why because it is a huge responsibility going on stage every night telling your stories and singing, so it is nice to sit in and do this once in a while.
Canadian artists today seem to be becoming better with the recordings on a par with any other. Unlike it once was with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot were pretty much out on their own?
It is really hard to make yourself known here in Canada. More people are getting to record and finding it easier to tour and people are getting out and are doing it. It was how I kind of started as another musician invited me along on his tour and I found out how it is done. We helped each another and it has grown the last ten years.
Have you any material already written for your next album?
It is a funny thing, I should be thinking about this record, but I have been digging through old demos and songs and looking at what I want to have on the next record. I have also been writing some new songs and keeping the circle going. Three years ago I was doing a lot of writing and some did not get recorded and it has been fun looking at them!
Catherine MacLellan’s Water In The Ground is out now on True North. More info at Catherinemaclellan.com